The death toll from a weekend Russian missile attack on an apartment building in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 37, authorities claimed Monday, as western analysts identified signs the Kremlin was preparing for a drawn-out war in Ukraine after almost 11 months of clashes.
The victims from Saturday’s strike on the multi-story residential building included two children, National Police of Ukraine reported, and 15 children are among the 75 injured. The rescue and search operation was ongoing, with 39 people, including six children, taken from the ruins so far, the police said in a statement.
About 1,700 people lived in the apartment building. Residents said there were no military facilities at the site. The reported death toll made it the deadliest single attack on civilians since before the summer, according to The Associated Press-Frontline War Crimes Watch project.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called the strike, and others like it, “inhumane aggression” because it directly targeted civilians. “There will be no impunity for these crimes,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Asked about the strike Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian military doesn’t target residential buildings and suggested the Dnipro building was hit as a result of Ukrainian air defense actions. The Ukrainian military said Sunday that it did not have the means to intercept the type of Russian missile used in Saturday’s strike.
The strike on the building came amid a wider barrage of Russian cruise missiles across Ukraine. Fierce clashes continued to rage in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, where military analysts have said both sides are likely suffering heavy troop casualties. No independent verification of developments was possible.
Donetsk and neighbouring Luhansk province make up the Donbas, an expansive industrial region bordering Russia that Russian President Vladimir Putin identified as a focus from the war’s outset. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv’s forces there since 2014.
The Russian and Belarusian air forces began a joint exercise Monday in Belarus, which borders Ukraine and served as a staging ground for Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.The drills are set to run through Feb. 1, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said. Russia has sent its warplanes to Belarus for the drills.